Your computer is the victim of network attacks approximately every 12 seconds. That’s how often a virus-infected computer sends out a probe against the Internet Protocol (IP) address associated with your computer.
Your computer automatically fights off most of these attacks so you hardly notice them, but not knowing about them doesn’t mean they can’t hurt you someday.
How To Hack Windows In 2 Minutes
According to researchers, if you install a fresh copy of Windows XP onto a computer, don’t install any of the updates, and don’t activate a firewall, the computer will be fully infected with viruses within two minutes of connecting to the Internet.
Viruses come in two types: those that try to trick you into installing them and those that hack their way into your system using a broken feature in Windows or another program.
The viruses which try to hack your computer use a simple three step system to find new computers to infect:
- Choose a random Internet Protocol (IP) address. There are about a billion IP (version 4) addresses, so your computer has a one-in-a-billion chance of being a target of this particular attack.
- Scan the IP address chosen. See if there’s a computer attached to that address, see which version of Windows it runs, and see if it has installed the latest Windows Updates.
- If it isn’t updated, the virus checks its bag of tricks to see if it knows an automated hack which it can use to break into your computer.
These three steps typically take a virus just a few dozen milliseconds, so it can scan thousands or millions of IP addresses every day looking for one of those computers which meets its criteria. Because there are millions of infected computers each scanning millions of uninfected computers everyday, it’s easy to see how your computer can be probed as part of network attacks every 12 seconds.
How Dangerous Are Network Attacks?
If you run a good and properly-configured firewall, viral network attacks have almost no chance of penetrating your computer. There are only two ways attacks can penetrate your computer:
- There’s a flaw in your firewall software. Since firewalls are very basic software, they rarely have bugs which viruses can exploit, so even if you use the default Windows Firewall, you should be safe.
- You create an exception in your firewall so some program will run faster. For example, many people create an exception in their firewall for BitTorrent so uploads run faster (which can create faster downloads). This exception exposes BitTorrent to network attacks, so if there’s a bug in your BitTorrent software, viruses can exploit it. Since BitTorrent or other software tends to be many times more complicated than a basic firewall, it’s also many times more likely to have a bug which viruses can exploit.
But what if you don’t run a firewall? I admit this isn’t likely among the readers of this site who regularly suffer through my admonitions to always use a firewall, but let’s consider the problems anyway.
If you don’t use a firewall, then any incoming request to your computer gets handled by Windows. Windows was built to be secure, but Windows is an enormously complicated program and one which we all know has bugs. Computer bugs are food for computer viruses—any problem with the networking part of Windows can be exploited by viruses.
In short, a firewall is a simple program (with, we hope, no bugs) which protects Windows (with all its bugs) so you don’t get hacked.
Firewalls offer an amazing amount of security, but in theory you could run without them. After all, Linux users almost never use firewalls.
If you don’t use a firewall, you must trust that the operating system, Windows or Linux, doesn’t have any networking bugs. Linux users are willing to extend that trust, possibly because the programmers among them can see the open source networking code. Windows users, on the other hand, have too often been burned by bugs in the Windows networking stack, and so they choose to use firewalls despite their additional complications. Maybe in some future Windows release, we’ll all be able to get rid of our firewalls—just don’t expect that anytime soon.
Large Scale Network Attacks
When it comes to network attacks, your computer doesn’t matter. (Unless you’re famous or rich.) Major network attacks are launched on a regular basis against large companies and governments.
These attacks are designed not to infect computers but to knock them off the Internet, so they don’t use clever viruses or software vulnerabilities—these rarely work against large organizations with high-quality system administrators anyway.
The tool-of-choice for these attacks is the Distributed Denial-Of-Service attack, abbreviated DDOS. There are many types of DDOS attacks, but 90% or more of all attacks use the most basic and most unstoppable method: the ping flood.
A ping is a Internet Control Message Protocol (ICMP) packet in which one computer asks a second computer to send it a signal. It’s kind of like saying “can you hear me now?” on your cell phone when you think the signal has been dropped. If everything is working fine, you expect your friend to reply to your question; if he doesn’t reply, then you know there’s a problem.
A ping is a very useful tool for troubleshooting Internet connection problems—I use it at least once a week. But it can also be abused. A ping flood is where one computer sends as many pings as it can to another computer so that computer spends a significant amount of time replying instead of helping someone else. It’s sort of liking asking “can you hear me now” over and over on a conference call.
But that’s not the worst of it. A ping flood is a Denial Of Service (DOS) attack. A Distributed DOS is multiple computers each sending its own ping flood.
Why don’t computers under attack just ignore the pings? Most do when they’re under attack by using a firewall, but even firewalls have a problem when there are too many requests. Firewalls have to inspect each incoming network packet so they can determine what they’re supposed to do with it; if the computer receives too many ping packets, the firewall doesn’t have enough computer processing time to inspect every packet, so it starts throwing away the excess packets (called dropping packets).
When a computer starts dropping packets, there’s just as much chance that it’ll drop a bad ping-flood packet as that it’ll drop a good customer-request packet.
That means when a major site such as Google or WhiteHouse.Gov comes under attack, legitimate users who send one access request can’t often get through because they’re competing with trillions of ping requests.
There’s no easy solution for DDOS attacks, which is why they’re so popular among hackers. The only solution which works is buying extra servers so you have more computer processing time than the attackers. Google alone spends millions of extra dollars a year on firewall servers just to fight DDOS network attacks.
Protect Your Computer From Attacks!
A software program will not upgrade your memory but it will clean out all the junk files, detect Malware, delete unused registry keys, Automatic Driver updates, and more. Not taking advantage of the latest protection software can leave your computer vulnerable to attacks. PC Matic will block malware before it executes and also remove existing viruses & malware. This software is amazing and has won a number of top awards. You can get a free scan for your computer to see how it works before you buy.
Cyber security isn’t just an issue for governments and corporations, but an issue we all face—that’s because the favorite weapon of hackers and terrorists is your computer, therefore network attacks are a big deal.